Outreach Project with Jack Ridl & CKP

October is National Disabilities Awareness Month. CavanKerry Press will be publishing the following piece by our Honorary Chancellor Jack Ridl:

The Poetry Society of Michigan has created a program where the members work with individuals or groups who lack a particular ability or who live in an overwhelming situation. The poet offers opportunities to write poems, read poetry, talk about both and discover the impact that doing so has on the person, her/his daily life, and on the member of the Society. It is poignant, profound, and powerful how adding poetry in this way affects the recipient’s each day, perceiving what heretofore has been overlooked, unrealized.

CavanKerry Press has enabled this program to have what it could not possibly afford–access to CKP’s astonishing works, books that matter and connect with those taking part
In the program. Someone with MS for example can ask for Joan Sidney’s important work. You can imagine what it means to discover that there really is someone out there who has, through her exquisite art, offered what it is REALLY like to live with this malady. Imagine what it means to be so deeply understood, to feel less alone, to receive the permission to create out of his/her actual difficult world. Imagine the member of the society coming to know this world from the inside, how care is transformed into caring empathy, how difference is erased by shared understanding.

Yes, this program is another where who is helping whom is mutual, where a soulful kind of healing transpires through the loving generosity of the intelligently caring talent in The Poetry Society of Michigan and of the great good heart that is CavanKerry Press.

Jack Ridl
CavanKerry Press author
Honorary Chancellor of The Poetry Society of Michigan

Sharing the love of poetry with a group of elderly women.

On November 18th, gave a 40 minute talk on poetry/read some poems to about 12 women who used to meet monthly at each others houses. Over the years it’s become harder for them to climb steps, etc…. so now they meet at a church. Anyways, the woman who invited me said she realized in all their years they had never discussed poetry so she thought it would be good for them. I think some of the other women were upset with her. Several mentioned they didn’t like poetry, didn’t get it, etc. By the end, though, they all (with the exception of one who kept nodding off) were really into it.

One of the poems they especially loved discussing was Jack Ridl’s poem, “After Reading Dom John Chapman, Benedictine Abbot.” How is prayer like bread dough? Doorknobs? Golf tees? They all used to bake their own bread so really connected with that image.

One even recited a poem she recalled from childhood. They asked if they could keep their leaves. (I’d gathered up and as they each picked one, we talked about God being a God of the falling leaves. They studied their leaves like poets, smelled them, twirled them in their hands, and each, even the lady who had fallen asleep, shared some pretty cool insights.)

A few weeks later, one of the woman—she’s in her 90’s—called me at home to say she couldn’t stop thinking about the talk and how she loves having poetry on my mind now. She’d taken one of the poems (I’d typed them out in large font and distributed them so they could see them as I read in case they couldn’t hear well) and read it to another group…A retired kindergarten teacher, she’s now become a poetry ambassador in her own circles!

Connecting with a brilliant, funny teenager who has a talent for writing and reciting poetry.

She also has mental health issues that have isolated in many ways. Our relationship is mostly via email. I encourage her to tap into her talent for writing, share links to local writing contests (one of which she entered and won), etc…. Her parents are now in the midst of divorcing, causing her even greater anxiety. She is going back and forth—confused about where she’ll be and when. She’s asked me to work with one of them to figure out a time/day we can meet in person to read/discuss poetry. After throwing out this poetry anchor for two years she’s finally grabbing hold of it, maybe having a sense that it can keep her afloat in this difficult time. I’ve reached out to her dad and hope to have a face-to-face meeting set up soon.

Jennifer Clark

The CKP/PSM Outreach Project

At the PSM Fall Meeting, Jack Ridl, the Honorary Chancellor of PSM, invited the members of PSM to bring poetry to a person who is a shut-in or disabled. Mr. Ridl is on the CavanKerry Press ADA Advisory Board. He has blogged at their website about how poetry can be a tool for healing (www.cavankerrypress.org) Mr. Ridl described CKP’s outreach to the disabled including the Laurel Books Series, books on issues “associated with serious physical and/or psychological illness.” CavanKerry Press provides free of charge the Waiting Room Reader to hospitals and waiting rooms to patients and caregivers. CKP is making artists the focus of ADA Awareness Month and the 25th anniversary of the passage of the ADA. PSM has been asked to volunteer, to share our art in order to improve the lives of the disabled or shut-ins in our communities. Email Mr. Ridl (jack@ridl.com) with your volunteer experiences. Include your name and address and the name and address information of your partner in your volunteer endeavor. He will share our stories with CavanKerry Press. Links to CavanKerry Press and information about the outreach project will be added to the PSM website, in the PSM newsletter and on Facebook. From Teresa Carson, Associate Publisher, CKP: “We at CKP are delighted to partner with PSM on this important project! We will most definitely post any shared experiences. I hope other poetry societies are inspired to do the same. As discussed with Jack, CKP will donate books to be given to persons with disabilities or shut-ins.” Be inspired by Jack’s experiences detailed in his most recent article (www.ridl.com).

A recent post by CavanKerry Press about our partnership CavanKerry Press post

A note from Jack Ridl with more details on the project:

I am so grateful to each of you for making this happen!!! And how good of CKPress to make this incredibly generous offer both of social media support and sending books to anyone who takes part. Now what is also really important–

  • More encouragement to members to take part
  • Assurance that the ways they meet and number of times they meet is their choice and will be unconditionally affirmed
  • That members can work together if they want
  • That any format from one on one to group is fine
  • That any questions/concerns can be sent to me at jack@ridl.com


  • Name and snail mail address of member and participant/s should be emailed to me. I will then take charge of getting books sent.

Added info:

  • If members go to CKPRESS website they can find book titles and then let me know of their request/s. Otherwise CK will send something of their own choice.
  • Yes, if a member is already doing such work, it “counts” as participation.
  • Our hope is that this will be a rich and rewarding experience for everyone taking part, and that our example will encourage other state poetry societies to take part. Perhaps this idea could be presented at the national conference.

Over and again,



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